The Tendency Toward Totalitarianism

Robert Peate
3 min readAug 7, 2022

Something I have experienced countless times, to the point that I feel no doubt whatsoever in making this statement, is that most human beings not only cannot tolerate disagreement, they expect others to behave subserviently, to go along with everything they say if not agree. Disagreement may be kept to oneself. If one disagrees or refuses to go along with someone else’s desires, shock and outrage result. It matters not who is right or wrong; the mere act of not agreeing is so shocking, so horrible, that it cannot be remedied or rectified with normal apologies. The cardinal sin of disagreeing requires absolute abasement to be forgiven, if it is to be forgiven at all.

The human impulse toward totaltiarianism is something I have studied my entire life. The word “totalitarianism” itself reveals the truth: it is not sufficient to be the leader everyone must obey. The totalitarian must control everything in toto, not just public policy but private conduct, which becomes an extension of public policy. The government reaches into every aspect of life. But even this is just a symptom of the human desire to control everything.

Whence comes this desire? Why does it exist? It could be a reflection of the danger in which our species has found itself from the beginning, but it has long since passed from being a harmless coping mechanism. The Universe does not acknowledge our desire to control it. The Universe has other experiences and phenomena for us. Control is an illusion, and we ignore that fact at our peril. We may take reasonable precautions, but we must remember that nothing is guaranteed. Parachutes still fail to open.

The totalitarian operates from fear, fear of a lack of control, and overcompensates for that fear in the only direction she or he can, but it is unrealistic. No amount of official control can prevent accidents or Nature from striking. A totalitarian might control the entire World and still suffer a fall at home, rendering him paralyzed, at the mercy of his former victims. Better not to bother attempting to control the World and to enjoy living in harmony with the Universe while one can rather than pursuing fantasies of control.

There is conflict in every relationship, as every living being experiences different needs and desires, and if one learns to handle inevitable conflict well, one’s life goes well. If one does not, one suffers more, whether from fearing conflict or enjoying it too much. Conflict is inevitable, but we must not over- or underreact to it. We must react to it precisely to the degree that it warrants on a given occasion, and every occasion will be different. This requires experience, skill, and the motivation to handle it well. It takes a long time to become good at what they now call “conflict resolution”.

As I say, most human beings are not very good at it, which is why it is all the more important that you and I be. We are surrounded by budding totalitarians who cannot brook dissent. One of our jobs is to help them get used to it.

Contrary to the opinion of some, I do not relish this obligation, but I will not fail to meet it.